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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Column: The back of your closet

Let’s be honest. You only really wear a fraction of the clothes you own. When you’re strapped for time, or in the middle of a fashion crisis, your favorite items extend their sleeves and pant legs to you, promising a day of comfortable banality free of any unforeseen fashion glitches. As handy as these go-to outfits are, they’re about as exciting as that leftover spaghetti in the back of your fridge.

So what’s in the rest of your closet? Most likely a plethora of untapped potential! Items you bought on double clearance, gifts from Auntie Doreen, impulse purchases at SPCA and daring buys outside of your usual fashion comfort zone. So utilize them!

I recently found myself succumbing to the tempting lures of my favorite clothing items. My jeans lobbying (I imagine my jeans to have a husky sort of voice), “Oh honey do I know how to hug your body, and boy do I make your ass look good!” Frazzled by too many units and the gaping hole where my second major should be, I was no match for their seductive offers. For the first few days, I lived in bliss, snuggling into my sweatshirts and wiggling my slipper-socked toes inside my moccasins. Bundled in my cocoon of cozy and propped up in a Shields library chair, I would watch the fashionable boys and girls of Davis strut by, their boots clicking importantly on the library linoleum and their scarves mysteriously fluttering in the windless indoors.

I could no longer pretend that I would rather live my life swaddled in sweatshirt material, looking like I rolled out of an intense, all-night finals study session, when the potential to look original, put together and classy was lying no farther than inside my closet curtains. Further guilted by the undeniable expert, Miss Coco Chanel, who said, “I don’t understand how a woman can leave the house without fixing herself up a little – if only out of politeness,” I resigned to only wear my sweats inside; the comfortable familiars would be an utter last resort, a white flag of fashion defeat.

To create a wall between me and the lures of the regulars, I composed a challenge for myself. I would not, under any condition, allow myself to wear the same pant/shirt combination on a school day. I understand that for most people, this challenge is simply not plausible, but my closet extends beyond my closet, it goes under my bed, into my dresser, onto shelves and even to the coat closet downstairs. To put it simply, I have a lot of clothes.

This was easy at first, I had a few good outfits on file, and I loved walking around campus feeling put together and back up to my usual fashion par. Soon, however, I found myself forced to explore the dark and cobwebbed areas of my closet. Here were the distant cousins, the ugly stepchildren and weird uncle Titos of my wardrobe, and there was I, finally ready to fully embrace them. No doubt, it was hard to find a way to work some of these items into my everyday school outfits (bright pink legwarmers?), but I approached each challenge with zeal and savored every victory. I began keeping a fashion journal of what I wore every day, to better keep track of what combinations I had already used, and to make notes about what was particularly successful and what needed some rethinking.

If you need a little help utilizing your wardrobe, identify a neglected clothing item and try to assemble three outfits around it. If it’s an awkward dress, you might try belting it, adding tights or changing the footwear. Don’t be afraid to be bold! Create unexpected color, print and texture combinations – you might be surprised at what works. If you’re uncomfortable sporting bolder combos on campus for all your peers to see, try strutting your new stuff on the streets of Davis. The Farmer’s Market downtown on Saturdays is always a great place to test the waters as it usually draws some crazy hippies who will always one up you on the experimental fashion scale. And if some of the items in your closet are past salvation, purge them and make room for the new! But don’t just throw them away, donate them to SPCA!

I am proud to say that I am still trekking on. No pants/shirt combo has been repeated yet, and my painfully unique teal and gold poodle sweater finally got its day in the sun. So go dig through your closet and challenge yourself to find a way to wear the things you so often neglect.

BRITTANY NELSON is busy thinking about potential names for the poodle on her sweater, reach her with your ideas at blnelson@ucdavis.edu.

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